New Delhi: Leading children’s entertainment company Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided to cease publication of six books due to their racist and insensitive portrayal of people of colour.
The six books, authored by Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss, are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer. They were reviewed by an expert panel from the company following feedback from teachers, specialists and academics.
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street has been criticised for including “a Chinese man with sticks”, who has two lines for eyes and can be seen holding chopsticks and a bowl. First published in 1937, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street is the book that shaped Dr Seuss’ career as a children’s writer.
If I Ran the Zoo depicts two African men wearing grass skirts and carrying exotic-looking animals.
A statement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises Tuesday said the six books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong”.
“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it added.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises also said it had decided to stop publishing the six books last year but made its decision public Tuesday (2 March), which is also celebrated as ‘Read Across America Day’ on Dr Seuss’ birthday.
Over 600 million copies in circulation
Dr Seuss was born in 1904 and died in 1991. More than 600 million copies of his books are in circulation, earning Dr. Seuss Enterprises about $33 million in 2020, up from $9.5 million in 2015, according to the company.
Forbes has also listed Dr Seuss as the second highest-paid dead celebrity of 2020, most of which can be contributed to the sales of his books.
In 2019, a widely cited study by academic Ramón Stephens from the University of California, San Diego, and Katie Ishizuka, the founder of the Conscious Kid Library, had found that just two per cent of Dr Seuss’ human characters are non-white, and the “vast majority are portrayed in a way that perpetuates racist stereotypes”. The study also found lack of women and girls in the books.
US President Joe Biden had also left out any reference to the renowned author on the occasion of Read Across America Day Tuesday.